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it don't hurt like it used to

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i

Josh didn't believe in love. There was no point to it. He had trouble holding stable relationships, with boys and girls, because he ended it too quickly. He especially did that when he was feeling something too strong. He can't remember the first time he's told a significant other that he loves them, and that may be unhealthy, but a part of him didn't care. After witnessing the relationship his parents struggled through, he never knew how to love or stay when things got rough. He couldn't know something he's never seen.

But maybe Josh could. He's been dating the most beautiful boy he's ever known, Tyler, for awhile. Tyler was kind, and despite the short months of time they've been dating, he still gave Josh this type of feeling that he couldn't explain. It was like, there was atomic bombs exploding in his stomach when seeing him. The thought of him made him instantly smile and make his head swim. It wasn't fair, how dare one person affect him like this. Their relationship was going so far, and they both knew it. That's what terrified Josh. He wanted to run and hide, somewhere Tyler could never find him, before it got worse and he got much closer.

So, maybe that's why Josh's head whipped around so fast he could feel his neck crack when he could have sworn he heard Tyler mumble the three words that struck fear inside of him. They spent time together, stargazing one night, as official boyfriend's. "What did you say?" He asked, trying to seem steady, but his voice wavered and showed how nervous he was.

It took a second, but Tyler eventually cleared his throat. "Sorry, I just - " He paused, his eyes flickering to Josh's and he saw how full of love and adoration was in them. "I love you," he repeated, this time his voice clearer and more serious. It made Josh's heart melt.

There was nothing more that Josh wanted than to just end it right then and there, but he couldn't do it. The words would just end up stuck in his throat. He was just terrified as of now, he couldn't even bring himself to speak, he was so shell-shocked and wanted to just run away like he always does when relationships end up like this. But he couldn't do that either. Both outcomes were equally scary; losing Tyler or keeping him around.

ii

It still scared Josh. To be with Tyler, to stick together, as a real couple. As for Josh, he was getting closer. He was caring for Tyler each and every time that he saw him. The walls he had built up were slowly starting to fall down, and he was sure that Tyler knew. It wasn't hard to ignore, especially when Josh had to look at him, it was just written all over his expression.

"Hey, Josh!"

The sound of Tyler's voice made Josh roll his eyes almost fondly. Except, he was getting pretty annoyed. He was trying to sort out an issue online and Tyler should have known that. In fact, Tyler should be helping him. "Tyler!" Josh called back, leaning his head in a stretch against the back cushion of the sofa. "Come down here!" In seconds, Tyler's feet were rushing down the steps when his boyfriend had called out for him. Soon enough, he was then plopped down right next to Josh. "Cool, you're here. Now you can help me."

Josh didn't notice the way Tyler had his head tilted, and a wide smile that crinkled his eyes when he stared at him. He was too focused on all the papers surrounding him and the laptop resting in front of him on his legs. "Hey, Josh?" Tyler repeated, nudging his boyfriend's shoulder until he looked at him.

"What? I'm trying to work."

But Tyler didn't care. His head leaned forward until it was resting on top of Josh's chest, right where his heart was. He listened to it quietly beat for a few seconds, speeding up when they made closer contact. "I love you," he stated seriously, reaching out to grab the hand that was busy scribbling away at something on a piece of paper.

The movement Josh was doing suddenly stopped and he froze. He forgot all about the work he was doing and looked down on the dark-haired one laying on his chest. He was silent, frozen in fact, remembering what he always did when a relationship got like this. Not that, he's been in many, but this one was the best. It gave him the most feelings. And that scared the shit out of him.

"I know you do."

iii

There was a time that Tyler had Josh laughing so hard, he was on the floor, clutching his chest as bubbles of joy exploded from his stomach and out his mouth. "You're so dumb!" He exclaimed in between laughs, feeling the joy so much that it was almost painful for him to continue the loud laughter. His cheeks hurt from smiling so much. He can't remember ever possibly being this happy with someone, because Tyler was just the one who did it so well.

"I love when you tell me that." Tyler was smiling the entire time, even through his words. He loved having the power to make Josh laugh so hard that he would struggle to catch his breath. His laughter was like music to his ears, and brought butterflies to his stomach. It was contagious. "You know what else I love?" He suddenly asked, switching the topic almost as quick as it started. Sure, he'd love to see Josh laugh more because it was just so amazing, but he also felt like he had to remind him of something. Something important.

"What, playing Mario Kart like a loser?" Josh teased, smiling back. It had nothing to do with why he was laughing from, but he had to make a joke and tease Tyler somehow.

"Hm, yes," Tyler agreed with a short hum. But then his expression changed, to something soft instead of smiley as he stared at Josh. "But I also love you. Like, a lot," he said. They've been dating for so much longer, and Josh hadn't said it back yet, and he wasn't pushing anything, he just felt the need to remind him. Especially in a beautiful moment like this.

The words, once again, had Josh leaning his head back and smiling. He wasn't laughing anymore, and despite the weird and almost painful feeling in his chest he had still managed to put himself together enough to respond. Slowly but surely, Josh was getting better. Maybe he was starting to accept it. Someone loved him, right? Tyler did. Tyler loved Josh, a lot, and he had to know it somewhere deep.

"You really do, don't you?"

iv

Josh was so stupid. He almost wanted to laugh at the irony. Why would Tyler ever love someone as fucked up as him? These thoughts ran like demons through his head as he laid backin bed, his eyes filling with tears. Only an hour ago, they were arguing. Josh was too upset, he couldn't even remember what of now. It didn't matter. It was something small, and dumb. They did argue a few times, as any normal couple would, but this time was just.. Different. Josh hated emotions. They always got the better of him.

When the door opened, Josh couldn't help but flinch. He instantly grabbed the edge of the covers and pulled them over his head. He didn't want to talk about it with Tyler, not now, not later, not ever. What would it even help? A simple hug and I'm sorry couldn't fix a relationship. It sure as hell didn't fix his parents, or none of the past ones he had. What would it fix now?

"Josh, I'm sorry." There was the soft apology, and Tyler's hand setting on Josh's arm as he sat on the edge of the bed making it dip. "Josh, please look at me.." He tried, gently squeezing with his hand. "I'm so sorry."

What happened came flooding all back at once and Josh's eyes filled with tears as his lower lip wobbled. He was unstable, and wasn't sure if he could deal with this right now. But he had to. He rolled over, catching Tyler by surprise, to face him. Tyler looked to be in the same state as he was, and it made him feel guilty. "I'm sorry," Tyler repeated, his voice cracking this time.

It broke Josh's heart. The three words were running through his head, but he couldn't say it. His throat swelled at the thought of saying it, and it hurt so bad, just like every part of him. "I'm sorry too," he responded, clearing his throat as the tears finally slid down his cheeks. He couldn't hold it back anymore.

Tyler had quickly responded by reaching out and gently rubbing his thumb against Josh's cheek to wipe them away. "Don't do that, you crazy loser that dyes his hair too much. Please, don't cry. It breaks my heart." He frowned, and laid back to allow Josh to curl up next to him. He raked his hand up and down Tyler's back to show him a sign of comfort, waiting until the shaking stopped, and he looked down at his boyfriend and gave him a small smile. "I love you. You know that, right?"

Slowly, Josh nodded back. "Yeah," he whispered. His heart still panged at the thought of someone loving and caring about him, but not as much as it used to.

v

"Tyler, can I talk to you?"

Josh was ready.

When he spoke, Tyler's head turned to look at him.He was instantly nervous. Hearing your significant other say that they want to talk to you is usually never a good sign, especially if they looked as serious as Josh did as of now. "Of course you can," he agreed, trying not to seem scared in any way.

Josh decided this was the perfect time. He had to do it, now. Before he became worse. So, he had to spit it out. Just say it, like he was ripping off a band-aid. "I love you. I'm in love with you."

The words sent a shiver through Tyler's spine. He suddenly felt dizzy, like the world around him stopped, but maybe it did. Or maybe he was going deaf, because there was a silent ringing in his ears, because there was no way in hell that Josh had said it to him of all people. He's never heard it, not once, leave Josh's mouth. Until now. "A-Are you.." He could barely speak, he was so shocked, but tried to.

Josh could see the way Tyler was just shocked at his serious words. "I love you," he repeated. He shoved the blankets covering them aside and grabbed Tyler's face before pressing their lips together. "I love you," he said again, not even realizing they were both crying until he tasted the salty wet tears in the middle of the kids. "I love you, I'm so in love with you," he cried. "Thank you, thank you for everything."

"No," Tyler said, his heart swelling with love and affection as he stared at his other half. "Thank you."